3 Ways to Influence, Not Control, Employee Commitment

If you’ve read various leadership forums, you’re probably familiar with the concept of control versus influence. Controlling and authoritative personalities in management motivate employees to act, but it’s usually out of fear or requirement — neither of which produce a sense of commitment to an organization.

When it comes to managing an employee’s psychological attachment and involvement in a company, it’s best to realize that “controlling” is impossible in this situation because we are dealing with attachment on a psychological level. If managers could control thoughts, we’d belong in a science fiction film.

Instead, the way managers communicate and act trigger an emotional response from employees, inspiring them to think and feel a particular way about their jobs, which influences a certain level of commitment.

While you can’t control employee commitment, you can influence it the following ways:

Check Your Culture and Revamp if Necessary

How’s your company culture? Have you checked in recently to see what values your employees are using to make decisions? Your company culture evolves over time, shaping your organization’s brand from the inside out. With the influx of new hires and the departure of veterans, it’s important to make sure your culture remains clear, strong, and on the right path.

A recent study proves that people choose whether or not to act on deviant behavior based on group norms. Just in the same, employees will conform to the norms of the organization in order to feel accepted as part of the group. It really makes you wonder what your new employees are learning from current ones, even you. Another study found that company culture directly influences employee behavior.

If your culture needs revamping, try implementing a few of these tactics:

Strengthen your communication. During busy work days, it’s tough to keep everyone in the loop about what’s going on. Try using mobile-enabled software that allows two-way communication between you and your employees through which you can send documents and updates.

Schedule a weekly tradition. Pick one that allows employees to interact with one another on a subject not related to work. Schedule a nerf gun war, lunchtime social, or post a “question of the week” allowing space for answers.

Create a place for exercise. If you can’t afford to pave a basketball court in back of your office building, install a basketball hoop in a break room. Or turn an extra office space into a gym, and welcome everyone to join in on finding inexpensive equipment to furnish it.

Play interactive games. Start weekly brainstorming sessions with quick icebreaker games like “I’ve Never,” “Pictionary,” or “20 Questions.” You can even theme them to the meeting’s topic.

Encourage office personalization. Encourage your employees to bring in items that inspire them, with which they can decorate their offices or desks. During the holidays, host themed office door decorating contests.

Show Your Humanity

We’ve heard the “lead by example” cliche, but there’s more to standing alongside your employees on projects. Employees really want a manager who is relatable. A human, not a superhero with unobtainable powers, or a tireless production robot.

If you strive to show nothing but perfection, employees will feel burdened by unrealistic expectations to perform at the superhuman level. Worse, they won’t have anyone they can watch to learn how to recover from mistakes. As a result, they may feel alone, or disconnected, which weakens commitment.

When you reveal your imperfections and address mistakes as something everyone faces, you can foster a sense of belonging among employees.

Involve Employees in the Vision

Often employees will feel detached from their work when they don’t understand what role it plays in the big picture. Generate excitement and a sense of significance in what your employees do by showing the direct effects of their work on the company in the form of numbers, positive customer reviews, or company ranking.

Not only that, but you can also generate a sense of ownership by allowing employees to participate in the decision-making process. Research shows employees are more committed when involved in making decisions. Feeling like an active force behind the direction of the company will keep them engaged.

When it comes to behavior, realize it can only be influenced by the actions you take. If you notice your employees are disengaged, try improving communication and engaging everyone in activities to create a sense of community. Remember, people commit to tasks because of how they feel about the people involved, and you can only influence employee commitment.

What are some other ways you can influence employee commitment? Share in the comments below!

Bio: Matt Straz is the founder & CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world’s most exciting companies. Connect with Matt and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

photo credit: L&L Transmedia Communications via photopin